Thursday, May 11, 2023

Q&A with Sue Fliess




Sue Fliess is the author of the new children's picture book Cicada Symphony. Her many other books include How to Hide a Turkey. She lives in Northern Virginia.


Q: You write that Cicada Symphony was inspired by living through the 2021 appearance of the Brood X cicadas. What was your experience like with the cicadas?


A: If I’m being honest, I was a little nervous about just how many cicadas would be flying around. But I soon realized, at least where I live in Virginia, they mostly kept to the trees. In other words, I was picturing a locust swarm, but cicadas behave differently than locusts (and are not in the same family!) and it was far less intimidating when they emerged.


Once they “arrived” I was fascinated by them. We’d see them on walks every day and because they cling to trees in order to molt and are relatively slow-moving and slow-flying insects, I was able to really inspect them. You could look at them and study them up close and they didn’t fly away; they aren’t skittish.


The more we saw, the more my curiosity grew. I started researching them and our walks became “today’s cicada fact of the day is…” until finally my husband said I should write a book about them.


Q: Having lived through several cicada appearances myself and never finding the cicadas particularly attractive, I was struck by the beauty of the illustrations in the book. What do you think Gareth Lucas's illustrations add to the book?


A: Cicadas come in several different color schemes, so I think it’s great that he chose colors that really pop on the page. There’s no denying their red eyes are a bit creepy, but once you learn the insects are clumsy and harmless, they really are nothing to be afraid of. Gareth did a great job of showcasing cicadas in their natural environments.


Q: The book's title, Cicada Symphony, highlights the sound the cicadas make. How was the book's title chosen?


A: After learning that the males (up to 750k an acre!) form what they call “chorusing centers” I knew I wanted a musical term. Then I went for the alliteration.


Q: What do you hope kids take away from the book?


A: I hope they come to realize that all creatures, even the strange or fearsome-looking ones, should be respected and have their own stories to tell. And that they all play a part in our ecosystem.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am working on the follow on to this book that comes out in 2024, called Octopus Acrobatics, which will also be illustrated by Gareth Lucas. I’ve seen the cover and it is incredible. Can’t wait to show you. I’m also working on a tooth fairy book.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Fun fact: When the cicada wriggles out of its exoskeleton for the fourth and last time, it is a milky white color and looks shiny, almost gooey… apparently at this point, it tastes like shrimp! Animals love to munch on cicadas, even my dog!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Sue Fliess.

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